Saving Horses

The Well of Experiences….

The Well of Our Experiences

AWARENESS

The first step in awareness is to examine the external world. We learn to cherish all that surrounds us. We learn to observe without judgment. We strive to not only preserve life, but to honor and enhance life. Horses do these things effortlessly when they live a natural life. We can learn from their example and we can support their natural awareness.

Horses need to feel that they are participating in life.

“The way horses live their lives is a metaphor for life’s priorities. It’s not always about winning or losing, it’s also about the quality of the experience, the journey itself, and putting your heart into what you do.” -Diane Lane actress, Secretariat

equine eye

Horses start their lives in one of three ways:

  1. Born into the wild with no initial contact with humans
  2. Born into a farm situation with human contact & other horses
  3. Orphaned early or at birth & raised by humans

Each situation creates unique perspectives and expectations in the horse. His language will be formed by the horses that raise him (#1), the horses & people that raise him (#2) or the humans that raise him (#3). This “language” becomes the first series of “drops” in the Well of Experiences for each horse.

We can add positive “drops”/experiences or negative ones to the lives of those around us.

As he matures, the horse’s experiences are positive and negative in nature and begin to fill that “Well”. According to the predominant type of experiences he has, he will learn to expect something positive or something negative with every new situation – if we wish to change this for him in some way, we must provide consistency in the things we bring to his awareness… we must flood a well of negativity with so many clear and compassionate positive experiences that the well no longer holds anything else.

The whole idea of struggle brings you

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The View From Above

Your horse is a prey animal. His eyes are set on the sides of his head to allow peripheral vision and depth perception – in front vision. This is how his ancestors detected the movement of predators even while grazing with heads down at ground level. To focus his eyes, the horse raises his head for distance and lowers his head for near objects. This explains why a Jumper needs to look straight at an obstacle with both eyes (depth perception) and without the head held high (looking past the jump). Because it takes time to focus (and that could turn him into a meal), the horse reacts to movement and checks out what was moving from a “safe” distance.

This pattern applies to most large prey animals – cattle, llamas, goats, sheep, etc. They may be totally safe in your barn, field or paddock, but their genetically coded responses can override their own life experiences. There is a common goal to NOT become a meal, even if it is totally not a possibility in this lifetime for that horse. Nature holds a power over all animals.

My beautiful picture

Your horse is a total herbivore. He should not be fed products that contain ingredients from animal sources. I am a vegetarian. I have total understanding of how ingestion of an unfamiliar animal flesh product can upset the digestive tract from one end to the other. Because I am a mammal and so is your horse, we can ingest things like yogurt without ill effect (of course, yogurt is very nourishing and health enhancing!) as long as it is free of things like artificial sweeteners, colors and the like.

Your horse cannot vomit, so everything he eats has to make it through a long and winding series of tubes that comprise the digestive tract. It really pays to be careful with everything that is fed to your horse.

The horse’s perspective is quite different than ours. We have eyes set at the front of our heads like predators and we do tend to move like predators. It can be unnerving to horses. To help him understand your intentions, move with steady, relaxed grace around your horse. Do not come up on him suddenly, unannounced (especially from behind!). Do not move crouched, slowly, stiffly as if you are “sneaking” up on him! Approach him as you do an old friend and talk to him.

The safest place for you to be positioned around a horse is at his shoulder (for your safety and his). He can see you (he has a blind spot directly in front of and below his nose and right behind his bottom) and he cannot strike, bite or kick you. Now, horses do not want to strike, bite or kick us unless they feel defensive and vulnerable (like when surprised from behind – for all they know, a tiger is about to leap onto them).

A horse can feel defensive because of past experiences (they have amazing memories) and you might trigger a response without realizing it. If you are having problems with your horse, try to figure out his perspective: does he feel confident that you are a kind and consistent leader? Horses look for a herd leader (or try to become one). Provide that leadership for him by CLEAR, CONSISTENT schooling. Make it easy for him to do the “right” things and difficult for him to do the “wrong” things. And be sure to consistently consider the same things “right” or “wrong”. You can drive a horse insane by rewarding him for doing something one day and punishing him for it the next.

You can develop your schooling program for your horse with a reward based system or a punishment based system. Either one will work. If you base your system on punishing each infraction, your horse will work to avoid punishment. He will only participate with you to keep from being corrected. If you use the reward based system, encouraging and praising and marking every “good” behavior, your horse will strive to find MORE good things to do for you and a RELATIONSHIP will form! It’s your choice.

Horses are mirrors for us. They truly do reflect our attitudes and emotions back to us. This is why they are such great teachers of patience, courage, compassion and self discipline. Horses excel in psychotherapy programs because of their pure, honest reactions to us. We cannot lie to horse, he will see right through us. A horse perceives much more than just the surface.

And horses are at our mercy. In the wild, without fences, a horse can find food and water. In the back paddock, he is totally dependent upon a human being for every life sustaining need. If you have the honor and responsibility of caring for a horse, always consider his viewpoint. His life is in your hands.

Your horse only knows what he is allowed or not allowed to do. He has no perception of Right or Wrong. If he comes from a life with other humans, he will have the imprint of their values in his data base. If you need to change him, do it GRADUALLY. You have to do things the way he knows at first, and then slowly teach him YOUR ways. I met a lady who came to this stable where I was training a stallion. She was to turn out and bring in the mares and foals. The horses were used to having their gates opened and they just ran out to the pasture! (This was not my barn, just a client’s) The lady, on her first day, decided she would catch each mare and lead her out. She nearly got killed … NOT because these were bad mares! It was because she tried to change their routine dramatically without any prior conditioning or interaction with the horses.

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Water Therapies: H2 Ohhhh

 
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Flowing water moves Lymph and stimulates circulation of Chi (Qi or Ki), the energy that moves through the Meridians of the body. These meridians are channels where the acupoints are found (for acupressure and acupuncture).

A cold, moving sheet of water over the body has another profound effect when the water is stopped and the area is wrapped properly or a light blanket used.

The circulation of blood increases and great warmth is produced.

This effectively creates lymph drainage where the capillaries ooze serum through their walls. This lymph nourishes tissues and takes up worn out materials and toxins which then are separated out by the glands to be excreted.

In hot weather, an overheated horse should be covered with tepid water that is then immediately scraped off to pull that body heat out and away. The senior horse needs to warm up slowly and cool down slowly when exercised, with gentle aftercare as needed.

Hoof soaking is a traditional way of treating disease and injury. Dissolving Epsom salts into very hot water will make a soaking bath to draw out abscesses, imbedded objects and pain. Use two cups of Epsom salts to each gallon of hot water. Test until you can just hold your hand in the water, then soak the hoof by placing it into a tub of the hot salt bath. Linger until the water has cooled, then immediately dry and wrap the hoof with cotton and a bandage; placing duct tape across the bottom of the hoof for support.

Essential oil of tea tree can be added to the soaking bath (one teaspoon per gallon) if there is fungus present.

Essential oil of lavender (up to 2 tablespoons per gallon) will help fight infection and pain. It is also very calming for the horse’s mental body and soothing to inflamed tissue. Lavender oil is indicated whenever there have been external parasites irritating the skin.

After soaking, the skin can be rubbed with half olive oil, half sesame oil to prevent chapping.

Fomentations are large towels soaked in hot water; often with the addition of herbal infusions for specific treatments.

It is the penetrating heat from the wet towel that causes extra circulation. This movement of blood helps to carry away the fluids of edema, toxins within tissues from injury or disease and relaxes the muscle fibers.

Boil water and keep it in an insulated container to maintain the heat. Because you will wring out the soaked towel with your hands, scalding of the horse is prevented (you can tell how hot it is by your touch – be cautious, for your sake, too).

You can add Epsom salts for drawing properties and the magnesium in them relaxes muscles.

Calming and healing herbs can be added as the water is boiled, then strained out before the water is used.

Soak the towel in the liquid, wring out to just wet, not dripping. Apply to the horse’s body where needed (especially for chronic, old injuries and deep soreness – acute conditions respond to cold). As the towel cools, soak it again and repeat until the water is no longer hot.

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Nasty Tasting Treats

Dharma Gita was a purebred Arabian colt (a son of the stallion Kobyashi, whom I Dressaged), orphaned at birth and raised by humans. This has its advantages and disadvantages. Little Gita did not know that he was a horse for several months of his early development. He rode around in the back, open area of my VW bus (I had 2 buses and one was not a camper, so it worked well for tiny colt transport).

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As he grew and became strong, he would test out normal colt stuff – like biting – on any available human. It was a challenge to educate him without brutalizing him. Another colt would have bitten him back, but my elderly Appaloosa (who became his equine companion) just put up with it!

One night I made herbal treats for the horses, combining things they needed as they faced the coming winter and storms. I mixed peppermint and garlic and anise seed and kelp and echinacea and all manner of therapeutic plants without considering how the combination would taste. I worked for hours and had 3 gallon jars full of them!

The next day was a disappointment. The horses hated the treats, especially Gita!

looking at you

When I offered a nasty tasting treat to him, he would take it, flemen (curl his lip up) then spit over and over dramatically. It took a couple of days for me to realize what a tool I had created. Gita was always “mugging” people for treats and being pushy with us… so, I had anyone handling him carry the nasty tasting treats. When he would mug or push or get nippy, we would just push a NTT into his mouth.

I swear, the NTT’s cured him! It was an immediate “correction” or behaviour modification, when he did the inappropriate behaviour. It was brilliant.

Swiping at him never helped (we were not fast enough to “hit” him correctly and it was like a game to him), it would have made him head shy. By the time the 3 gallons of little treats were used up, Mr. Gita was a new “man”. And, he got some healthy herbs into his mouth.

Darj and Katharine

Dharma Gita, too big to ride in the bus anymore

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New and Perfect Doorways, Enlightenment and Simplicity

I am listening to Radiohead as I work on the identity of Dharmahorse – we are becoming a non-profit. With the help of loving friends, the good we try to do can be amplified. I’m excited. I’m tired. And we have a new horse, he has been here for a week now, “Vega”, named after the star. He was going to be killed. I was told about this 2 days before it was supposed to happen… I ran and met him. I fell in love. We started building a pen! He arrived last week. He is healthy and sound and gentle. He is also elderly.

A song just said, “I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul”, and I was struck by a feeling I had years ago when my Mum and I were on our way to one of her doctors and saw a badly injured dog on the side of the road. I’ve told that story here in the past – suffice it to say that, after getting help to take the little one to the Humane Society, my Mum and I were so very sad. The dog was too injured to survive.

Driving home later that day, I saw puppies playing in a yard. I thought how the other dog’s body was broken and the puppies were so strong and new in their perfect bodies… the cycle of life… of old age, suffering and death. The very things the Buddha found release from through the “middle way” and enlightenment. My dog, Basil, died at age 21. My Mum died last year. Bodies are just vehicles that are finite. Who we are is infinite. I believe that.

And Vega has an awesome body and awesome soul. Maybe he was too elderly for others to value, but we are honored to have him in the tribe. The day I met him, I rode him a little to know him better. It might have been months since he had been ridden. He was well cared for where he was boarded. And he was loved by others – the ones who contacted me and helped get him into my hands.

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I want a perfect body. I want a perfect soul. I think we need to define perfect!

My beautiful picture

I think he’s pretty close to perfect.

My beautiful picture

Vega actually exemplifies the situation that Dharmahorse hopes to address as a non-profit… as a rescue. We can bring a horse like him into our tribe where he is cherished and his lifetime of service and contact with humans is honored. He will be accommodated. He can give some “lessons”. He can be a therapist. He can be happy.

And I hope we can educate and inspire people. Taking care of a horse is a commitment – a responsibility, but it can be simple. I feed simple, clean foods to these horses; they live in simple pens with simple shelters. Things do not have to be posh to be “perfect”. Things just need to be consistent!

horse needs card

Onward we go. The future holds much promise. Just like my adventure to Hawaii, this adventure will unfold properly and I will set aside all ideas of fear or doubt. They only distract from the pure and deep experience of every moment… the savoring of it all. The process is the “perfect soul”.

Now, if I could just teach my dogs to clean the house….

My beautiful picture

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